Pets hold a special place in our hearts. They are certified members of our family with unique personalities, all their own. Whether we acquire our one-of-a-kind pets at a young age or much later in their lives, they are our children. Pets count on us to look after them for their needs. It’s a sacred responsibility that a loving pet owner takes seriously—a unique bond forms between a pet and its owners when daily habits and practices occur. As an important family member, the certainty of grieving the loss of a pet is much like grieving a friend's or relative's loss. You're not alone if you’re wondering what to say to someone grieving a pet. Remember, it’s not what you say but what you do. Here are five ways to offer soothing support for the grief-stricken person you care about:
Validate Their Loss
In our society, the loss of a pet usually doesn’t get much attention from the family or friends of the bereaved. It can be hard to understand why losing a pet can be devastating unless someone is a pet owner. With little support, grieving pet owners may feel shame or embarrassment about their feelings of overwhelming loss. Opening up to others may not feel like an available option. The beloved pet held a vital and distinct place in the bereaved's life—usually, a pet shares nearly all their days with their owner. In many cases, that’s more time than friends or other family members!
To offer meaningful help to someone grieving a pet, it’s important to recognize and validate their loss. Take their grief seriously. A loss is a loss. It’s not up to anyone to judge another person’s response to death. What’s important is that the person you care about is affected by the loss of their pet.
When someone close to you is mourning the loss of a pet, it’s very helpful to make your presence known. Don’t ignore a grieving perso in their time of need, even if you don’t fully understand why the death is so upsetting. Be proactive and reach out. It’s ok if you don’t know what to say. There aren’t many words you can offer to assuage their grief anyway. You can simply acknowledge the death of their pet and offer your heartfelt condolences to start. The bereaved may not remember what you said in the moment of their grief-filled daze, but in time, they’ll remember you showed up. For that, they’ll be truly grateful and appreciative of your effort.
A person mourning the loss of a pet may be holding in a lot of thoughts and emotions because they may not feel supported in their grief. You can help put their mind at ease by creating a safe space for them to let it all out. The best way to do this is by letting them know that you’re here for them and are listening. Give them your undivided attention, and forget about the clock. If the bereaved see that you’re genuinely invested in hearing about their grief experience without time constraints, they may open up to you. Providing a moment to release all their feelings and thoughts about the loss of their pet can be cathartic for them. You’ll be doing them a great service.
Talk with Them
Although listening is quite valuable to the bereaved, sharing your personal stories about their beloved pet can also be helpful. Remember, this is about the bereaved, so ensure the topic is their pet, not yours. Hearing meaningful stories about their beloved pet may comfort the grief-stricken person. These loving anecdotes can prove that their pet also impacted others, which is quite beautiful. Hearing their pet’s name out loud is not pouring salt on the wound. Instead, it celebrates their life and keeps their memory alive.
Spend Time With Them
Pet owners are used to sharing special daily routines with their pets. From feedings, cuddles, walks, and more, the absence of a pet from these common rituals can be glaring. People experiencing grief may find adjusting to abrupt changes in their habits extremely difficult. For instance, dog owners usually have habitual times when they take their dogs for a walk. These strolls can represent a stabilizing moment in their day. You can offer help by joining the bereaved for a walk. By doing so, they’ll still get out for some fresh air, but they won’t be alone. Evenings can be especially difficult for pet owners who live alone. Consider having dinner with them or doing another simple activity that might brighten their mood.
Your presence is ultimately the greatest gift you can offer a person mourning the loss of a pet.
By showing up, you’ll be sending the message that you care. In validating a grieving pet owner’s loss, you can provide healthy support as they journey through their grief process.
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